Every now and then, when I sit down to write a blog entry for the Hobey Watch, I can’t help but think, “isn’t it a bit early for this?”
Granted, those thoughts are on their last legs at this point in the season – one more month, and it’s no longer too early for anything, really – but I decided to sit down with some numbers and figure out whether it really is too early to evaluate potential candidates for the Hobey Baker Award.
Tuesday night, with all the pre-Thanksgiving action in the books, I decided to look at the statistics through Thanksgiving for the Hobey Hat Trick members from the last five seasons (if you want to know why I didn’t do more than that, either in terms of years or finalists, sit down and caluclate a couple of goals-against averages, and then get back to me).
Here’s the stats, broken down by position:
Marty Sertich (2004-05): 10 GP, 8G, 8A, 16P
Brett Sterling (2004-05): 10 GP, 9G, 6A, 15P
Chris Collins (2005-06): 9 GP, 9G, 4A, 13P
Eric Ehn (2006-07): 14 GP, 14G, 14A, 28P
Ryan Duncan (2006-07): 12 GP, 8G, 5A, 13P
Kevin Porter (2007-08): 12 GP, 13G, 5A, 18P
Ryan Jones (2007-08): 12 GP, 9G, 3A, 12P
Nathan Gerbe (2007-08): 10GP, 5G, 4A, 9A
Colin Wilson (2008-09): 12GP, 5G, 13A, 18P
Matt Carle (2005-06): 12 GP, 5G, 8A, 13P
Matt Gilroy (2008-09): 12GP, 1G, 7A, 8P
David McKee (2004-05): 8 GP, 4-2-2, .941 SV%, 1.38 GAA
Brian Elliott (2005-06): 12 GP, 9-1-2, .943 SV%, 1.40 GAA
David Brown (2006-07): 11 GP, 8-2-1, .913 SV%, 2.15 GAA
Brad Thiessen (2008-09): 13GP, 9-2-2, .940 SV%, 1.90 GAA
So, it’s all very nice to look at, but what does it tell us? I mean, besides the fact that Eric Ehn got off to one hell of a start in 2006-07?
Well, for starters, of the forwards in the Hobey Hat Trick over the last five years, only one averaged less than a point a game at Thanksgiving (Nathan Gerbe). That may be bad news for Garrett Roe of St. Cloud, whom I’d tabbed as a guy to watch, and has 10 points in 11 games. Certainly nothing to sneeze at, but he has a ways to go to get himself into serious Hobey contention.
Tyler Ruegsegger of Denver is also in that “danger zone,” with .92 PPG, but to be fair, Patrick Weircoch still strikes me as the primary Hobey contender on that team where skaters are concerned. His .91 PPG through 11 games is a bit off from Matt Carle’s 1.08 PPG at Thanksgiving in his Hobey year, but it’s hardly unreasonable to expect him to pick up his scoring pace.
I would be remiss, however, if I did not pay some attention to the Pioneers’ goaltender, Marc Cheverie, who made quite the return to DU’s lineup last weekend against North Dakota after being injured at the end of October. I watched the Friday game at one of the few Buffalo Wild Wings in the New York metropolitan area, and while I was sorry not to see Chay Genoway on the ice for North Dakota (especially with all I’ve heard about him), I was certainly impressed at the way Cheverie didn’t miss a beat in his return (you may remember that the same could not be said of Brian Elliott when he was injured in his Hat Trick season).
Cheverie’s 58 saves on 60 shots in a weekend sweep – including a 34-save 1-0 shutout in his first game back – leave him with a national best save percentage of .961 and a NCAA-leading GAA of 1.19, better by far than any of the goalies who have made the Hobey Hat Trick in the last five years…and it’s even better than Ryan Miller’s numbers through Thanksgiving in his Hobey year of 2000-2001. When he sat down for turkey before the College Hockey Showcase in 2000, Miller had a 1.29 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage. Unreal – and better than any of the goalies who’ve made the Hat Trick in the last five years – but not quite as good as Cheverie.
If he can keep this up…who knows?
Meanwhile, one goalie who seems to be well out of contention at this point in the season after high expectations coming in is Zane Kalemba of Princeton. In fairness, Kalemba’s .904 save percentage isn’t so far from David Brown’s .913 at this point as to eliminate him completely, but with a goals-against average over 3 and Cheverie going great guns for Denver, it’ll take a dramatic improvement for Kalemba over the coming weeks to get back in the race.
Finally, Ryan McDonagh of Wisconsin is right on the line where defensemen are concerned, with a .67 PPG average, exactly what Matt Gilroy had at this time one year ago. Of course, the real story on the Badger blueline is Brendan Smith, with 13 points in 11 games, and there’s plenty of other high-scoring rearguards to keep tabs on (Genoway, Nick Schaus, Blake Kessel, etc.), but based on recent history, it’s too early to write off almost anybody who could have been considered a Hobey candidate coming into the season.
So, coming back to the original question: Is it too early to look at Hobey front-runners? In the sense that there’s still potential for someone to charge into the conversation, yes, but given how rare that’s been in the last few years, it’s not quite so early after all.